03/10/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General


Daudi Mwakawago, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, is our guest and will be joining us to brief about developments in that country.


**Secretary-General/ Indonesia


Just to go back over the weekend, on Saturday, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali, that have reportedly killed at least 20 people and injured many more.


The Secretary-General was dismayed that Bali has yet again been the scene of terrorist outrage almost three years after the attacks of October 2002, and sent his deepest sympathy to the injured and the bereaved, as well as to the Indonesian Government.


The Secretary-General urges the Indonesian authorities to act promptly in identifying and bringing the perpetrators of this cowardly act to justice.


**Security Council


Romania, as you know, has taken over the presidency of the Security Council for the month of October, and Ambassador [Mihnea] Motoc is holding bilateral talks with other Council members today on the programme of work for the coming month.  The Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the programme of work tomorrow, after which the Ambassador intends to brief you in this room about the Council’s agenda for the month ahead.


** Sudan


Turning to Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is back from Abuja, Nigeria, where he had discussions with the African Union’s Chief Mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim, as well as with the delegations of the Government of Sudan, the SLM/A and the JEM on the ongoing talks aimed at bringing peace to Darfur.


Pronk’s message to all parties was to move ahead with the procedural discussions that took almost six days, and to start as soon as possible on the substantive portion of these discussions.  He calls on all parties to engage in these talks in good faith and with a tangible commitment to achieving a final settlement on the Darfur issue.


**Secretary-General/ Guinea-Bissau


Turning to Guinea-Bissau, we have available upstairs the Secretary-General’s message congratulating President Joao Bernardo Vieia of Guinea Bissau, who was sworn in at a ceremony over the weekend.


The Secretary-General, in the message, assured the people of Guinea-Bissau that the UN system will continue to support the Government in its efforts towards national reconciliation, consolidation of democracy and creation of a climate favourable to economic revitalization.  That statement is available upstairs.


**UNICEF


The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have teamed up with the NGO, Médecins sans frontières (MSF), to launch a Targeted Supplementary Feeding Initiative in Zinder, in southern Niger.  The agencies and the NGO will screen a quarter of a million children to identify and give intensive care to the children most at risk of malnutrition.  They expect that figure to be about 50,000.  More details are available upstairs.


**FAO


The Third World Congress on Conservation Agriculture begins today in Nairobi, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.  Conservation agriculture involves planting crops directly into the soil, without ploughing.  According to FAO, this saves on soil erosion, and is particularly well suited for Africa.


And last, these housekeeping notes, sort of a housekeeping note:


**Power Failure Follow-Up


In the follow-up to the power outage which hit on the 19th of September, the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, Mark Malloch-Brown, has informed UN Secretariat staff of a number of steps the United Nations management is taking to correct the numerous deficiencies revealed by the power failure.


The steps, in response to staff concerns, range from improving the public announcement system to ensuring that clear direction and information are provided, and making sure that backup for telephones and computer networks are in place.


Malloch-Brown says that many of the steps outlined have either already been done or should be done in the very near future.  Others –- notably the improvements to the infrastructure of this Building –- will take longer, and involve significant expense, but, he says, the Department of Management is assessing how these improvements can be undertaken as quickly as possible.


I just wanted to let you know, as users and residents of this Building, as well.


Tomorrow, our guest will be Johan Scholvinck, the Director of Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Nguyen Hong Nhung, a student leader from Viet Nam, and they will be joining us to launch the World Youth Report 2005.


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On the Mehlis investigation, what about the possible extension of the Mehlis investigation until December 15th, as it has been stated by the Prime Minister of Lebanon?


Spokesman:  As far as we’ve been informed, Mr. Mehlis is still writing his report with a target date of October 25th.  Obviously, with regard to a possible extension, technically, under the resolution, an extension could be done until December 15th, but that request would have to go to the Secretary-General, and the Secretary-General would have to approve it, but we are not at that point, we haven’t received a request for an extension.


Question:  The date of the 15th of December, would that fall under a renewed mandate?


Spokesman:  No, that is technically feasible within the existing mandate.  But, I would stress that, as of now, Mr. Mehlis is still working with a target date of late October, as we had announced.


Question:  Just a follow-up ... Has the UN received any request by the Lebanese Government to look into the possibility of extending his mandate in any form to investigate the other bombings that have taken place?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any requests, any official requests to change that mandate.


Question:  Speaking of the Building falling apart, and so forth, the Under-Secretary-General for Management seems to be absent to explain what he is doing.


Spokesman:  No.  He is not absent.  We hope to have him brief you on the management reforms at some point.  On the Building itself, we are looking at a target date of around between the 6th and the 12th to get Mr. [Fritz] Reuter down here to talk to you about the Capital Master Plan and the upgrade to the Building.


Question:  Another question on Mehlis.  Is he planning to go to Syria to interrogate the brother-in-law of Bashar al-Assad and his brother also and others?  If you have other information, can we have that?


Spokesman:  We’re not made aware of all the people he’s talking to or discussing or interrogating for this.  Obviously, he will continue to try to talk to anyone he feels necessary for the purposes of the investigation, but we are not given a detailed list of who he is speaking to.


Question:  What is the quality of the list?


Spokesman:  The quality will be judged in the report and only he can answer that question once he completes his investigation.


Question:  In Somalia, these ships taken by pirates apparently were released yesterday or the day before.  Do you have any update as to whether they have docked or whether they are delivering the food?


Spokesman:  I’ll get you an update on that.


Thank you.  Pragati.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Following the letter sent on Friday by the General Assembly President to all Member States setting out his plan for Summit follow-up, the Assembly will hold an informal meeting of the plenary tomorrow afternoon to hear views from Member States.


Today, several of the Main Committees are beginning their work.  In the First Committee, the general debate on disarmament was kicked off with a statement by the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe.  He said that, following the lack of agreement on disarmament issues at the NPT Review Conference and at the World Summit, it falls in some large measure to the First Committee to begin the task of “trying to pick up the pieces and provide fresh orientations”.


In the Second Committee, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, opened the general debate on development issues.  Among his remarks, he urged Member States to seize the opportunity immediately to begin putting into effect the World Summit’s decisions on several new functions to be carried out by the Economic and Social Council.


The Third and Sixth Committees are also meeting today to set their organization of work.


At 12:30 p.m. today, the Assembly President will be co-chairing and making remarks at the 44th Annual Fund-Raising Luncheon for the Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Scholarship Fund of the UN Correspondents Association.  NBC News Anchor Brian Williams is expected to attend as a special guest.


Any questions?  Thank you very much.


Question:  One for you (the Secretary-General’s Spokesman).  Maybe I missed it, but is there some sort of confidential report that Newsweek says describes the Iraqi constitution as a model for the territorial division of the State?


Spokesman:  There was an internal UN analysis which obviously was leaked to Newsweek.  But, this was an internal document, prepared for the Iraq team, which was a look at the constitution.  As far as the UN is concerned, the constitution itself will have to be judged by the Iraqis on the 15th of October during the referendum.


Question:  Who was on this team, whose analysis was it and how was it received?


Spokesman:  It’s an internal, it should come as no surprise that within the UN staff who deal with Iraq there would be papers analysing latest developments in that country, but it’s an internal analysis.


Question:  So is that the UN view?


Spokesman:  No. The UN view is that the constitution should be judged by the Iraqis.  The Secretary-General welcomed the adoption of the draft, the putting forward of the draft for the referendum, and this has always been an Iraqi-owned and Iraqi-led process, and it is up to them to judge the constitution.


Question:  Is Secretary-General Annan coming back tomorrow?  If you announced that, I might have missed it.


Spokesman:  Yes.  He will be in the Building tomorrow.


Question:  Who’s hosting him where he is?  Are we able to discuss that?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is on a private visit and that will remain that.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record